On Monday, the Lahore High Court rendered its decision on numerous petitions, primarily submitted by defeated independent candidates backed by the PTI, contesting the victories of various politicians such as PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, former Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, and members of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party like Aleem Khan and Awn Chaudhry.
Following extensive hearings throughout the day, Justice Ali Baqar Najafi delivered a verdict regarding the admissibility of these petitions, with the announcement made late at 10 PM. The judge concluded that the petitions were not maintainable before the high court without first exhausting the remedies available under the Election Act 2017.
Approach relevant forums
The petitioners primarily argued that the consolidation of election results, as evidenced by Form 47, was conducted in their absence by the respective Returning Officers (ROs), constituting an unlawful exercise of power that could be challenged within a constitutional jurisdiction. However, the judge referenced a previous ruling by the Supreme Court, which clarified that such issues, including recounting, must be addressed through election petitions rather than invoking the jurisdiction of a high court.
These petitions were filed by PTI-backed independent candidates who had contested the victory of PML-N and IPP candidates, including Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Aleem Khan, Awn Chaudhry, among others. They sought to invalidate Form 47 prepared by ROs without their presence, thereby denying them the opportunity to observe the consolidation process.
Dismissing the appeals, the LHC judge rejected the arguments put forth by the PTI-backed candidates against the victories of Maryam Nawaz, Khawaja Asif, Ata Ullah Tarar, and others. The petitioners contended that they were forcibly prevented by police officials, acting at the behest of ROs, from witnessing the result consolidation, which they viewed as a violation of fair electoral processes.
The judge suggested that the petitioners could file representations under relevant sections of the Elections Act 2017 and the Constitution before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He emphasized that any disputes regarding the consolidation of results, regardless of the petitioner’s presence, would be resolved by the ECP in accordance with the law, thus upholding the constitutional mandate.